A good part of the reason I started blogging was because I went to a history conference at a UT branch up between Dallas and Fort Worth and found that, contrary to belief, many well known academic historians have found community history projects to be invaluable because of their focus and details. Photos rated high. Photos with details rate high. Interviews with participants in events rated high. Interviews with older people rated high if you cover their experience and perspective.
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Free MP3 sites

Be your own program director. Venture off the beaten path. Live a little.

2dopeboyz: Hip hop. (RSS)

3hive: Sharing the sharing. Free and legal MP3s from over 600 underground and undiscovered artists — new ones added daily. (RSS)

Amazon MP3 Download - Frequency: Weekly. Get the latest on Amazon MP3 music downloads - new releases, freshly ripped hits, and special deals.

Audio Drums - A blog for rare, possibly overlooked, maybe forgotten gems of music with a slight emphasis on electronic and indie genres. (RSS)

Common Folk Music - A blog about music, not just folk music, but all music ranging from indie to alt-country to bluegrass, because music is for the “Common Folk”. (RSS)

Discobelle.net (RSS)

Fiddlefreak Folk Music Blog - Folk, bluegrass, Celtic, and other music of the people. (RSS)

Fingertips Music - Free and legal music. (RSS)

Gorilla Vs Bear (RSS)

Hillydilly: Simply Good Music. (RSS)

I Rock Cleveland: Indie Rock, College Rock, Alt Rock, Modern Rock, Cleveland Rock, and Rock. (RSS)

KEXP Song of the Day: KEXP 90.3 FM - where the music matters (RSS)

Kick Kick Snare (RSS)

Line Of Best Fit - TLOBF.COM | Music Reviews, News, Interviews & Downloads (RSS)

Lipstick Disco - Deep House & Disco music blog fronted by Females (RSS)

Minnesota Public Radio Song of the Day: Music lovers from 89.3 The Current share songs with you each weekday. (RSS)

Muruch (RSS)

Music Like Dirt: Music in all its many forms, mp3’s, live reviews and photography. (RSS)

My Old Kentucky Blog - a music blog that parties with unicorns. (RSS)

Nah Right. (RSS)

ninebullets.net. (RSS)

Rollo & Grady: Los Angeles Music Blog, LA Music Blog (RSS)

Said the Gramophone: a music weblog (RSS)

She Makes Music: She Makes Music focuses on the most exciting and impressive new music created by brilliant and talented female musicians. (RSS)


Sounds Better With Reverb (RSS)

Stereogum: All the MP3s on Stereogum.com (RSS)

their bated breath (RSS)

Women of Hip Hop (RSS)

YouKnowIGotSoul (RSS)

Mourn ya till I join ya

The Wheel’s Still In Spin: Focusing on new music releases and reviews of individual albums as original, fictional short stories (RSS)

A Fifty Cent Lighter & A Whiskey Buzz - This site is just a way for me to have a little fun and share a little music. I’ll highlight some of my favorite artists that I play on the radio and try to expound upon their music in ways I can’t always do on the air. (RSS)

Aminal Sound

Audiofile: Music Blog, Music Articles - Salon.com

Crossfade: The CNET music blog

Direct Current New Music - Adult pop, rock, singer/songwriters, folk, Americana, alt-country, adult alternative, soul, world music, crossover jazz and simply those artists that make us go “hmmm.”(RSS)

GarageBand.com Folk top tracks (RSS)

GarageBand.com Hip Hop top tracks (RSS)

Flawless Hustle: Urban culture blog featuring artist interviews, music reviews, legal music downloads, street art, graffiti and more! (RSS)



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The Hunting of the Snark

Sites participating in blogroll amnesty day

Jon Swift aka Al Weisel, may he rest in peace. Co-originator of Blogroll Amnesty Day

skippy the bush kangaroo (Co-originator of Blogroll Amnesty Day) (2012)

Vagabond Scholar (2012)
Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety. Keeper of the Jon Swift Memorial Roundup (The Best Posts of the Year, Chosen by the Bloggers Themselves)

Notes From Underground (2012)

Redeye’s Front Page (2012)

Wisdom of the West (2012)

Zen Comix (2012)

pygalgia (2012)

Mikeb302000 (2012)

The Agonist (2012)

Brilliant At Breakfast (2012)

Bacon and Eggs (2012)

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The OLC Does Not Have a Head. Does It Need a Body?

No Associated Press content was harmed in the writing of this post

According to its web site, the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) “provides authoritative legal advice to the President and all the Executive Branch agencies.” Its home page gives a brief, readable description of its functions, which basically center around guiding the executive branch and its agencies in all things legal. Its opinions are considered binding within those spheres, though that has never been established by the courts.

It has been described as the president’s law firm, and its recent work in that expansive capacity has been of questionable value. Here is Jane Mayer’s take on it as we lurched into the War on Terror:

The Bush Administration’s corruption of language had a curiously corrupting impact on the public debate, as well. It was all but impossible to have a national conversation about torture if top administration officials denied they were engaged in it. Without access to the details of the CIA’s secret program, neither Congress nor the public had the means to argue otherwise. The Bush Administration could have openly asked Congress for greater authority, or engaged the public in a discussion of the morality and efficacy of “enhanced” interrogations, but instead it chose a path of tricky legalisms adopted in classified memos.

Those memos and legalism came from the OLC. Here is how Scott Horton described the outlook of then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey and former OLC head Jack Goldsmith:

The view taken by Mukasey and Goldsmith is that OLC memos are cloaked with a sort of talismanic significance. It doesn’t matter how stupid or incompetent they are, or that they have turned the OLC into an international butt of ridicule. Government officials are entitled to rely on them absolutely, and they cannot be prosecuted to the extent that they do.

Taken together, these points justify getting rid of the OLC entirely. Its most visible work in recent years has been to provide the framework for the culture of impunity that has poisoned the White House. Its memos are called “golden shields” precisely because the issuing of them has come to be seen as unconditional justification for the activities they cover. The memos are infallible in all but name, a characteristic more associated with religion than civil government for good reason. The idea that OLC lawyers’ work carries complete authority is odious. They might do fabulous work outside of public view but it would take an awful lot of great lawyering to offset that.

President Obama has a curious relationship with the office as well. He nominated Dawn Johnsen to head the office, allowed her to languish for almost a year, then let her nomination die a quiet death. Now there are rumors she will be re-nominated this year. The OLC is in something like a zombie state at the moment, working on a semi-permanent basis without leadership.

If the White House is content to let it cruise along on auto pilot indefinitely, what value does it have? Couldn’t an enterprising law student crank out the legal boilerplate required for executive orders? Or is the president content to let it hibernate, only rousing it if he needs prospective immunity for some dubious enterprise? In a way, his willingness to let is shamble along in this state is even more cynical than his predecessor’s wrenching of if to his dark purposes.

Presidents need legal advice, and they already have it in the form of the Office of the White House Counsel (OWHC). (Lest you think I am being radical, Bruce Ackerman thinks we should get rid of that office as well as the OLC.) Let the OWHC take on the functions of the OLC, only without the omniscience. If an agency like the EPA needs a clarification on something, let it retain counsel or consult its in-house lawyers if it has them. Transferring control of agencies from the executive to the legislative branch might be worth considering too, but that’s another post.

Having groups (the OLC) provide advice to entities (the executive branch) obscures, probably by design, lines of authority and responsibility. The White House doesn’t need legal representation; the White House is a building. It is fine to informally refer that way to the president, or the president’s policies, in news reporting and commentary. As a legal matter, though, it is an absurdity - and asking people to refrain from such shorthand is more than a semantic game or pedantry. It goes directly to our intuitive understanding of how our government works. Individual leaders make decisions, individual lawyers provide counsel. There may be teams of people working on policy or vetting proposed language, but there is ultimately one person signing off. The OLC by its very nature helps to cloud those distinctions. For that reason alone it is worth doing a cost/benefit analysis on it.

Reader Comments (4)

My first reaction is that reform of the OLC versus elimination is the answer, but given the function of the Office of the White House Counsel and the extraordinary abuses perpetrated by the OLC under Bush/Cheney, the case for elimination grows stronger. The CIA, DOD and every other agency and branch have their own legal counsels, anyway, and in theory, they're supposed to talk to each other when relevant. Yoo's ridiculous opinions might be far more exposed in some other departments. I note, though, that Ackerman wants the Office of White House Counsel axed as well, and writes that Obama "should transform the Office of Legal Counsel into a courtlike institution that will make every effort to interpret the law in an impartial fashion." I think we all agree on the general problems, and that there need to be structural mechanisms to curtail abuses, but the precise set-up is less clear. Do a cost/benefit analysis on it all, as you say.

January 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBatocchio

Thanks for the thoughts, Batocchio. I mentioned transferring control of agencies from the executive to the legislative as an aside, but it could be seen as a central issue. The need for even a reformed OLC to have panels of lawyers is in part a function of the vast authority of the executive. Moving as many things as possible into the branch responsible for creating them in the first place might reduce the need for a team of lawyers in the White House.

January 8, 2010 | Registered CommenterDan

I don't think OLC should be axed primarily because it was misused by a single corrupt administration. Instead, I'd like to see, um... remember "transparency"? Well, a nice transparent review of the entire DOJ and full clarity about its functions would be nice. A really solid, active judiciary committee would be nice too.

Keep in mind that, like it or not, lawyers are there to find loopholes as much as anything. Like anything else, OLC's function depends on intention and about being subject to truly impartial oversight. I'd be a little worried about making any big changes at a time when things are so partisan as to make effective oversight impossible.

January 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPW

Words of caution noted, PW. :)

The overriding concern for me is having too many layers, too many places for the system to be perverted. Getting rid of the OLC would mean (I think) straighter lines of responsibility.

I've somewhat soured on oversight in the last few years. Regulations can go unenforced for ideological reasons, agencies can be starved of the resources needed, etc. More and more I think we need to find solutions that don't depend on vigilance, but instead on transparency and a presumption of accountability. Or something like that.

January 8, 2010 | Registered CommenterDan

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